Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Movie Watching: Iron Man 2

So, a week or so back the reviews began to hit the internet for Iron Man 2, the sequel to the 2008 surprise hit for Marvel Studios. The reviews were mixed. In fact, somehow the fact that reviewers were not joining forces to give us early warnings about what level of awesomeness to which we should calibrate ourselves became a story unto itself. It seemed that not everyone felt Robert Downey Jr. and Co. had lived up to the expectations.

On Sunday, I caught the sequel, and I am suspecting that at this point, many of you guys may have also seen Iron Man 2.

I simply don't get why people are so down on the movie. I'm not saying that Iron Man 2 is as good as its predecessor, or that its even a great movie. But as for an exciting summer popcorn action flick sequel? For me, it got the job done.

Some awesome @#$% is about to commence.

The movie picked up immediately after the events of the first film, addressed questions that most superhero movies (and comics) dodge regarding the US government's interest in superheroics and super-hardware, and how the appearance of Iron Man would spell "arms race".

It is true that there were a lot of plot threads in the movie, and possibly one or two too many characters. There was also some fairly extraneous, ridiculous stuff that made the movie feel "dumbed down", such as the use of the robot voice of Jarvis to act as an insta-exposition device. The party scene feels a bit forced. Maybe the resolution of Stark's illness is a bit pat.

But with so many sequels that fall completely flat (from what I hear: The Matrix Sequels), or take the characters in directions at odds with the course of the previous film or films (like, say... Highlander 2), Iron Man 2 continues the thread of the same over-the-top Tony Stark we met at the beginning of the first film, and infuses him with a new direction for himself, his company and for what he sees as a future he may be bringing to the world.

Sure, I would have thought Stark would have been held in contempt of congress, or some such charge, but its a fun scene, and more or less wins you over to the unlikely opinion that Stark should be the sole-proprietor of the Iron Man technology (which is, at its heart, a far more driving question in the film than "how sick is Stark?" or "will the villains' scheme work?"). But even that scene is fairly plot heavy, drawing in characters, establishing Hammer's role in the film, and establishing the conflict.

Pretty much exactly what it looked like when I met Jamie...

There's certainly also plenty of connecting the dots between where Iron Man concluded and where Stark will need to be for either an Avengers installment or a sequel. If you're looking at the movie as a foretaste of the Avengers franchise (and I am), its fun to see pieces falling in place. Far more so than were Marvel Studios to try to find an excuse in the Avegers movie to bring all of these characters together with no previous tie-ins. Its an experiment, but one that could pay off like no other franchise before.

One could say there was not enough in the way of Iron Man duking it out with badguys. Maybe I'm old, but there were plenty of other distractions, plot wise, to keep me interested.

spoiler: And, no, nobody believed Stark would die of metal poisoning, and so I didn't mind that it acted more as a catalyst for finding how to super-charge his armor and set up Stark Industries for a new era, all while completing dad's dream. If I can get that plot point in short hand, that's fine by me. end spoiler.

At any rate, its an imperfect film with some great set pieces and a wide variety of characters. And, yes, its a movie featuring both Gwyneth Paltrow and ScarJo, so there's plenty to distract you.

Yeah, I vaguely remember some robot-guy was in the movie, too.

The action scenes and flying scenes we do get are pretty darn good. Guys in armor and with crazy technology beat the living holy hell out of each other (and everyone's kind of okay), robots fly through the air and go "pew pew pew!" at Iron Man, lots of fireballs, and there's even some superspy karate stuff.

Honestly, I have seen Iron Man a fair share of times at this point. While it holds up just fine, I think after Ghost Rider, Daredevil, two fairly embarrassing Fantastic Four movies, Spidey 3, and likely several others I'm forgetting... we were all sort of surprised how much we liked Iron Man.

What you won't get is the satisfaction of the superhero origin story, which is usually the most interesting part about most super-heroes (except for "Matter Eater Lad", who has a boring origin, and is interesting because he eats any kind of matter). We can look to how Nolan must have realized he had spent his Bat-fuel on an origin story, and decided to trade a standard superhero storyline for a sort of intense crime thriller. And maybe that's what some of these sequels are going to have to learn how to do.

It wasn't expecting Dark Knight. I was expecting a superhero movie sequel that was better than FF2, and felt that we got that. So, you know, great.

But, take all this with a grain of salt. I'm also the guy who liked both Hulk movies and Superman Returns.

Yeah. Kind of puts things in perspective.


Fantomenos said...

The only hole that bugged me:


Why did Mickey Rourke's character fake how useless the robots were. I mean, the audience couldn't have believed it, and if he hadn't lied he would have had front-row seats to take over the drones, instead of having to kill the guards, hack in manually, etc.

That aside, I thought it was a perfectly watchable movie (I just got back 5 mins ago). I like the actors, the characterizations, and I liked that it wasn't wall to wall fight scenes.

Did you stay till after the credits?

Ransom said...

I've not yet seen it. I suspect that it, like the original one before it, is a renter, at least for me. Downey did himself no favors in my book for perpetrating the Sherlock Holmes flick, so I see no reason to rush out to the theatres to see this one. Oh, well.

J.S. said...

Is that really a valid criticism? Holding up a subpar but totally unrelated movie that the lead actor appeared in as a reason not to see this movie? If that's the standard, then you're not going to be able to see many movies. Most of Hollywood's top tier actors have appeared in some crappy movies at one point or another. Anyway, not to be too hard on Ransom, but this just seems sort of representative of the sort of criticism Iron Man 2 has been getting- people who already were more or less against the idea of the movie before seeing it (because of the basic premise or the actors in it or whatever), and then offering kind of weird rationalizations for disliking it. I didn't think the movie was flawless, but at the same time it would definitely have a good shot at making it within my top ten superhero movies.

The League said...

It was no "The Phantom" (Slam Evil!).

I, too, disliked Sherlock Holmes, and I'd put it differently than Jason and say one had little to do with the other in my book.

I didn't want to dwell on it in the post, but I had a friend on Facebook quote criticism to me, and the things the guy was criticizing weren't really "wrong". Weird stuff like "why are characters having two conversations?" I might be missing something the kids expect out of narrative economy in their films, but it certainly had the feel that the reviewer didn't like the movie and was just looking for stuff not to like. I've seen complaints that certain characters "didn't have enough to do" that made me believe the character would just be standing around in the background, when that clearly wasn't what was happening.

Oh, sophomore efforts. Nobody loves you.

J.S. said...

I know, I hope Ransom didn't take offense, but since we all seem to be making a national pasttime out of being critics now (myself included), it seems like we're way past the point where it's fair to start taking a logical, analytical look at some of these critiques and to start criticizing some of the criticism.

Fantomenos said...

Yeah, ever since that Marlon Brando guy appeared in "Island of Dr. Murrow" I just haven't been able to bring myself to see "The Godfather". I hear it's good, but a guy's just gotta have standards.

Oh and word verification: "fabless", which I take to mean either totally lacking fab, or the plural of my favorite Vertigo ongoing...

Ransom said...

My, my, you gentlemen are itching for a fight over popular culture. Allow me to retort, as I would hate for my silence to leave the impression that I agree with your assessment that my decision not to see the film at the theatres is "invalid." These days, going to the cinema is such an enterprise. It's a costly hassle, and it is coupled with all sorts of modern day annoyances: boorish viewers talking on their phones during the film, children running up and down the aisles with those shoes that glow in the dark, projectionist problems, et cetera. If I'm to actually trek to the theatre to see a big budget action flick, I want to make certain I will enjoy it in spite of those aforementioned issues. I did not enjoy Sherlock Holmes, and I have heard that Iron Man II was not as good as its predecessor. That alone, as I indicated, means that for me it is a renter. I just don't believe that for me it is worth the full cinema going experience. Is that somehow objectively wrong or invalid? I'll certainly watch it sometime in the next six months. That's all I meant to say, though I appreciate all the hyperbole in response! ;)

The League said...

I'm not sure Downey Jr. falls into the "Tom Cruise" category for me, but I also have policies regarding avoiding certain actors (while no real policy on going to see a movie because a certain actor is in it). But as in the "Tom Cruise" example, I have to see a pattern of movies ruined by the actor and not by the direction or script.

if anyone can appreciate the rough road of attending a movie these days, its me. I encourage this as a renter.

J.S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ransom said...

For me, a renter it will be. (Of course, these days, almost everything is a renter.).

Simon MacDonald said...

It's not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination but I really enjoyed it. I think that the first movie was superior to the second but I didn't feel like I wasted my money buy watching it in the theater. Plus, any excuse to eat pop corn.